Friday, October 4, 2013

Emergent Church, Frank Schaeffer, and the Rejection of Certainty, at least Christian Certainty

Emergent “Christians” don’t like Christian confidence regarding the traditional biblical beliefs of the faith. Along with the rest of  their “progressive” society, they find them offensive. And they have many arguments against certainty.

Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late and famous apologist Francis Schaeffer, argues that “Certainty is the enemy of truth” – a very peculiar statement. What good is truth if you cannot be certain that you’ve found it? You’ll simply wander into another idea and then abandon it once you become somewhat certain about it.

Then Schaeffer paradoxically states:

  • If people were certain, there’d be no science, because people would say, “Well, we know everything”…Same in marriage – nothing to learn, nothing to explore. Same in parenthood, and of course for our idea of God.

If we can’t have any degree of certainly, we’d have no science textbooks. Without certainty, they would remain blank. Besides, without the possibility of certainty, there is nothing to learn and we should close down our schools and run around naked like animals.

Schaeffer also commits several logical errors. If certainty isn't possible, he has no business opening his mouth. He must be certain enough about this statement in order to coherently utter it! If he is not certain about it, he should remain silent. If he speaks authoritatively of something he is not certain, then he is not being honest.

Perhaps even worse, Schaeffer assumes that certainty about particular propositions means that we are left with no room to learn anything else. This is bizarre logic. Instead, it is because I have certainty about logic, reason, and the learning process that I am confident about learning more and adjusting my ideas accordingly. Therefore, Janie B. Cheaney writes:

  • Human reason always builds on a platform of presuppositions: ideas or principles that reason accepts as self-evidently true. (World, Oct. 5, 2013, 20)
Consequently, without some degree of certainty, learning is stymied. Nevertheless, the Emergent Church is certain about their own theology. Cheaney writes:

  • Emergent Christians celebrate a god whose dimensions are too vast to pack into a rigid set of doctrines. At the same time they are pretty sure that God would approve of same-sex marriage and deplore this summer’s Supreme Court decision on voting rights. One might even say they are certain of it. (20)
Meanwhile, Schaeffer is emphatic that we should:

  • Create beauty, give love, find peace.
In fact, he seems to be quite certain about it.

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